GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The plans may be changing for what will become the new Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Leaders may be forced to avoid building on wetlands on the home's current property.
In April, leaders at the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) received notice they would get funding to build two new veterans homes, one in Grand Rapids and one in Southeast Michigan, most likely in Macomb County. The state is matching some money for the projects with the federal government paying the bulk of it.
A letter obtained by the 13 On Your Side Watchdog team, though, shows Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has some concerns about the placement of the buildings on the 93 acre piece of property the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans sits on now.
This winter, the MVAA had an initial location design from the architects to place the new building at the southwest corner of the property near the corner of 3 Mile Road and Monroe NE in Grand Rapids.
In March, the Grand Rapids city commission voted to change the zoning so the building could be built. Some commissioners and advocates at the time expressed concerned about the wetlands issue. And the DEQ agreed.
"During review of the project site, the MDEQ’s Water Resources Division (WRD) observed that a stream and regulated wetlands are present at the site of the proposed project," DEQ Water Services Unit employee Amanda Whitscell wrote. "Based on the enclosed project plan, prepared by Tower Pinkster and dated March 19, 2018 it appears that the proposed project may impact the stream as well as the regulated wetlands. If it is not possible to avoid impacting these features a permit will be required."
That's causing leaders at the MVAA to, perhaps, reconsider where they put the building.
"We are looking at the options now," MVAA Director James Redford said. "We have engineeers and environmental people taking a look at it. We have our architects looking at it so that we can make sure we're utilizing the campus the best way possible to provide the best home possible for our veterans."
Nobody in the MVAA believes, at the moment, the issue will stop construction of a new home.
"Now we're trying to determine what's the best path forward," Redford said. "We have a wonderful 93-acre campus."
MVAA spokeswoman Suzanne Thelen said the MVAA wants to do it right the first time. She said at least a third of the project plans need to be complete by August 1st to send to the federal government.
If the issues can be settled and the project stays on course, the new Grand Rapids Home for Veterans would be open in October 2020. The existing Home for Veterans will remain open until the new facility is built.